Ahead of the expected health care bill vote this weekend, pro-life Christian leaders and members of Congress assured Americans that there is no federal funding for abortion in the Senate version.
Catholic and evangelical leaders joined pro-life congressmen Thursday in support of the Senate health care bill, which they touted as pro-life on many fronts. The bill would cover more than 30 million uninsured Americans, provide critical support for pregnant women and does not provide federal funding for abortion, the leaders asserted.
"We must not lose sight of what is at stake here – the lives of 31 million American children, adults, and seniors who don't have health insurance," said Rep. Dale Kildee (D-Mich.). "I will be 81 years old in September. Certainly at this point in my life I'm not going to change my mind and support abortion and I'm not going to risk my eternal salvation."
Congress, Washington and the nation have been divided by the question of whether the Senate health care bill allows for tax dollars to pay for elective abortion. Within Congress the question has not only divided members along party lines but even within the Democratic Party.
Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) is leading a band of pro-life House Democrats who threaten to oppose the bill because of the abortion issue. Stupak said his group wants the Senate version to add language similar to the House's Stupak-Pitts amendment, which clearly bans tax dollars from paying for abortion.
"My group of 12 [Democrats] here can make the difference on this vote," he said Friday on ABC's "Good Morning America."
Many pro-life and conservative groups likewise oppose the Senate bill because it lacks the Stupak-Pitts language on abortion. These groups have mobilized pro-life Americans across the nation to flood the offices of members of Congress with letters and phone calls expressing their opposition to the bill in its current form.
But Francis Xavier Doyle, former associate general secretary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; Morna Murray, president of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good; and Ron Sider, president of Evangelicals for Social Action believe the Senate version is pro-life. They joined the pro-life congressmen on Thursday to show support for the Senate health bill.
"It is a moral outrage for the richest nation in history to leave 47 million of its people without health insurance," said Sider. "This legislation substantially extends coverage and also retains the long-standing stance of the Hyde Amendment against federal funding of abortion. It will save thousands of lives, cover millions of people, and prevent federal funding of abortion."
Sider was among the evangelical leaders that signed a letter last week to members of Congress that details how the Senate bill is pro-life.
Other evangelical leaders that signed the letter included the Rev. Jim Wallis, president and CEO of Sojourners; Joel Hunter, senior pastor of Northland Church; Dr. David P. Gushee, chair of New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good; and Brian McLaren, author and founding pastor of Cedar Ridge Community Church.
Rep. Charlie Wilson (D-Ohio) said Thursday, "I'm opposed to abortion, and I think the language in the Senate bill ensures that there will be no federal funding of abortions."
"As a pro-life Catholic, I want to thank the religious leaders gathered today for making this issue even clearer," he said.
President Obama is scheduled to speak about health care reform Friday afternoon in Virginia. He has traveled to several cities in the past two weeks to rally public support for the health care legislation in the House. Health care reform is President Obama's top domestic priority.
The House will likely vote on the health care legislation Sunday.